Rosalie is amicably divorced, dividing her time between her mother's house, with her siblings and small daughter, and César's. He's self made, a scrap iron king, outgoing, amiable, in love with her. Enter David, an artist and Rosalie's flame before her marriage. In a quiet, brooding way, he seeks to reclaim Rosalie. César's jealous outbursts and attempts at cunning backfire and send Rosalie into David's arms. César keeps trying: he buys Rosalie's childhood seaside vacation home as a gift, wins her back, then must ask David to join them so Rosalie will be happy. When Rosalie discovers César and David's complicity, she again asserts her freedom, leaving the men alone together.Written by
'Cesar et Rosalie', the title of the 1972 movie by French film director Claude Sautet, can easily be misleading. It is not a simple love story, or rather it is not a single love story, but two. In other words, it is the story of a love triangle, in which a woman is loved by two men, and returns love to both of them. The situation seems awkward and could be the subject of a passional film about jealousy with the potential to end tragically, or it could be a pretext for a wild comedy. I confess that I know very little about Claude Sautet, the film's director and co-writer. If my memory serves me well, this is his first film I've ever seen. His merit here is to have written a sensitive and intelligent story and to have chosen and led a formidable team of actors with the help of which he made a film that withstands the test of the almost half century that passed from production.
Rosalie (Romy Schneider) is newly divorced taking care of her little daughter. Cesar (Yves Montand), her boyfriend, is much older than her, but he is rich, charismatic, and full of self-confidence, at least until the appearance of David (Sami Frey), Rosalie's first love from the time just before her marriage. The two men love Rosalie, each of them in his own way, very different from each other. Rosalie hesitates as she cannot decide between the younger man who has left abandoned her years before and the older man who ensures her safety and who seems willing and able to do anything for her. Where will the romantic competition between the two lead? What will Rosalie decide? I will say, of course, nothing about the ending except that it is one of the few cases in which I do not agree with my favourite film critic, the late Roger Ebert, who criticised it quite severely. I really liked the open and surprising final. Today's feminists may be irritated for much of the film, but they will be rewarded in the end. In fact, a new movie could start here.
Yves Montand and Romy Schneider are fascinating, and it's hard to believe that it's been almost 50 years since this film was made and 3-4 decades since they've left this world. Sami Frey completes this triangle that draws the kind of plot that was very fashionable during the French New Wave, but which is described here with the methods of classic French cinema based largely on text and the charm and talent of the actors. Claude Sautet knew how to direct his actors and leave them enough freedom to get the best of them. The cinematography, the music, the natural and urban scenery are no more than effective, serving the plot. An interesting extra detail, proof of Sautet's casting talent, is the appearance of a 19-year-old red-haired actress named Isabelle Huppert in a supporting role, one enough well defined and with enough presence on screen so that we can remember it - probably the first more consistent role of the future star in a feature movie. 'Cesar et Rosalie' is a beautiful and interesting film, which has withstood the test of time and is still worth watching or re-watching today.
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